Note to readers in the Washington D.C. area: Tonight (January 21) at 7:30 PM, Robert Royal will be giving the inaugural lecture in a series sponsored by the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria Virginia in commemoration of its 225th year of existence. Information about this event is available by clicking here.
Why Do Christians Believe in Hell? Because Christendom has affirmed it, Jesus clearly teaches the reality of Hell in the Bible, and Hell’s reality resonates with an honest account of our own experience.
That’s not the answer theologian David Bentley Hart gave earlier this month, when the New York Times offered him a perch to discuss the misguided beliefs of his fellow Christians. The Bible is so unclear about Hell, he wrote, while it is clear about universal salvation, that the doctrine of Hell must be purely an expression of the ill will of Christians. They hate their fellow human beings so much that they want them to spend eternity in torment.
When the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, Hart writes, the doctrine of Hell was a form of “spiritual terror,” which served as an “indispensable instrument of social stability.” But the enduring motives, Hart insists, have always been deeply personal – and demented. Christians derive a “secret pleasure,” he says, from hoping that, when they are saved, they will be envied by the damned: “What heaven can there be. . .without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?” ….